January 14, 2009

Recipe: Tempura Veggies – Junk Food Post #14

Author: Chris PerrinJanuary 14, 2009

And the beat rolls on.  Today brings the second week of unResolution month to a close.  Hopefully by now you’ve learned that vegan food can be just as fattening as comfort food. If not, here’s one more chance to convince you!  It’s also a good segue into the next seven days which will be focusing entirely on deep friend foods! Mmmmmm…

However, before we get into this dish, I’d like to thank Gourmet Girl for all her tempura advice.  Thanks!

Now without further ado…

Tempura Veggies

There’s just something wonderful about tempura vegetables.  The lightness and the saltiness of the batter mixed with the crunch and the natural flavor of the vegetables… there’s no finer way to eat vegetables.  Of course, despite the lightness of a tempura fry, it’s still a fry.  Which is how tempura veggies made it to unResolution month and why they’re a sometimes food.

With that being said, on to the recipe!

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January 13, 2009

Recipe: Vegan Nachos Part 2- Junk Food Post #13

Author: Chris PerrinJanuary 13, 2009

First off, happy thirteenth day of unResolution month.  I hope January is speeding along for you.  I know it is for me.

Okay, so something strange happened last night during my first vegan nacho post.  I got really into talking about the different faux meats and making vegan cheese and suddenly I forgot that I wanted to add an ENTIRE section on making tempeh and tofu to top the nachos  Once I finally remembered, it was too late for yesterday, but not too late for today!

So today I proudly offer…

Vegan Nachos Part 2

The inspiration for this dish actually came from an episode of Dinner: Impossible where Chef Michael Symon had to fix dinner for a group of cowboys and their families with one catch…everything had to be vegetarian.  Further complicating things were the fact that the cowboys weren’t in on the surprise (apparently veg*n cowboys are hard to find) and Symon’s bad attitude.

For his nachos, the original concept was to cook and crumble tempeh like ground beef on the nachos.  Good idea…

However, during the episode, some tofu, which was going to be used in sandwiches, got overcooked, dried up, and got chewy.  Rather than let it all go to waste, Symon chopped the tofu and sprinkles it on the nachos like grilled chicken.   So with that inspiration, here is my interpretation of those toppings.

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January 12, 2009

Recipe: A Meal For New Beginnings

Author: Chris PerrinJanuary 12, 2009

Maybe it’s just clever marketing, but I am starting to believe the hype: maybe 2009 is the start of something grand.  Right now our economy is in the tank, we are at war, and the ranks of the jobless swell every day.  The experts say 2009 is the year that we pay for the excesses of the past.  As a world we’ve got real comfortable with greed and overindulgence, but it didn’t make us happy.  It got us into a mess.

But there’s reason to hope.  Some people point to a new president and a new attitude in the White House, but I’ve noticed there is something going on that is far more grassroots.  Not only do people seem to be more willing to work smarter, but they seem to want to work greener, cleaner, happier, healthier, friendlier, and with deeper passion for what is truly important.  The change is inspiring.

It is in this spirit of hope and renewal that I would have my ultimate meal.  I would invite several couples and single friends to my table with the ultimate goal of sparking thoughts of four different types of renewal:

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January 12, 2009

Recipe: Fried Vegan “Chicken Strips” – Junk Food Post #11

Author: Chris PerrinJanuary 12, 2009

Vegan Chicken StripsVegan comfort food week of unResolution month marches onward.  Why vegan food?  Well, I figure I’m corrupting the omnivore’s and the vegetarian’s diet, I might as well make it equal opportunity (raw foodists, I’m thinking real hard…)  I mean, after all, UnResolution month only works if everyone gets a chance to eat really bad-for-you-food that tastes pretty darned good. Right?

So today, we are going with something quick and easy and familiar to meat eaters and non-meat eaters alike:

Fried Vegan “Chicken Strips”

If you have been following this blog much lately, I have been doing a lot of cooking with Match Foods products.  I’ve done gravy burgers and crab rangoon both made from Match’s meat replacers.  Today, I decided to bring things back a little bit and do something everyone loves: chicken strips, but vegan chicken strips made from Match meat.

This recipe is simple and easy and uses the same tempura skillz I learned from Julia Usher at Sauce Magazine.  However, unlike yesterday’s deep fried sushi recipe, the tempura batter used in this recipe is a lot more open to interpretation.  Normal tempura batter uses plain soda water and minimal spices.  With this recipe, you can use beer if you like or Coca-Cola or whatever.  You can also add more or different spices than those I list.

Feel free to have fun with this one.

Vegan Chicken Strips

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January 10, 2009

Recipe: Deep Fried Vegan Sushi – Junk Food Post #10

Author: Chris PerrinJanuary 10, 2009

Deep Fried Vegan SushiConsider the following entry into the amazing world of sushi-dom just a taste of things to come.  On a personal level, I am slowly leaving my Chinese phase and am strongly considering a sushi-at-home phase.   Either way, I thought that deep fried sushi would be a perfect entry for unResolution month because sushi, if the rice is kept to a minimum, is a decent health food for vegetarians and non-vegetarians alike.

So what better way to spend my 10th post of unResolution month than making the dish as remarkably unhealthy as I possibly can?

Deep Fried Vegan Sushi

I hate to say it, but sushi is like anything else…it’s better when its fried.  I can only imagine the army of highly trained sushi chefs who are coming to hunt me down now, but it’s true.  Add batter and fat and it’s enough to make my American heart soar, right before it seizes.

It is important to note when considering this dish that this recipe is vegan (it keeps up with the theme of this week – vegan comfort food that is also bad for you), but if you are not a vegan, you can fill your roll with whatever you like.  This one is just a very easy vegan go-to roll.

Rolling Vegan Sushi And Then Frying It

To get things roll going, you are going to need standard sushi ingredients: nori (toasted seaweed), sushi rice, and fillings, but then we go the extra step and fry it in tempura batter.  So this recipe will be broken up into three sections: making the rice, making the sushi roll itself, and then deep frying it.

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January 9, 2009

Recipe: Vegan Crab Rangoon – Junk Food Post #9

Author: Chris PerrinJanuary 9, 2009

Crab Rangoon Made Without Animal ProductsAnd the beat rolls on… We’re almost to the mid point our of second week of yummy, soul satisfying and totally embiggening (I didn’t make up that word, the Simpsons did) awesomeness that is unResolution month.  I hope this week has inspired you to reconnect with the ooey, gooey, greasy, and yummy foods that make life great.

Today, we’re going with another favorite with a vegan twist…

Vegan Crab Rangoon

Yes, that’s right… we’re veganizing a food made primarily from cream cheese and crab, neither of which are particularly vegan.  But we’re going into this dish with a plan and an arsenal consisting of vegan crab meat from Match Foods which make living la vida vegan delicious.  (Also, as one of my friends on Twitter pointed it out, it’s also great for those who are allergic to shellfish.)

Making Vegan Crab Rangoon

The key ingredient to making vegan crab rangoon work is the vegan cream cheese, which I have recently started making at home and I am loving it.  I realize I am a bit of a vegan cream cheese novice so it’s probably not up to the pro’s standards, but I find my version quite serviceable for this recipe.  Also, I keep mine pretty flavor neutral so that onions, garlic, and crab can bring their flavor to the party.

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January 8, 2009

Recipe: Soyrizo Taquitos – Junk Food Post #8

Author: Chris PerrinJanuary 8, 2009

Vegan TaquiotsAnd now… day 8 of unResolution month.  Hopefully at this point, unResolution month needs no introduction and you are happily eating away.  (And maybe going to the gym. :))

Today, I turn the focus of unResolution month from comfort foods (with a minor deviation into cookies) to straight vegetarian/vegan food that also happens to be ridiculously bad for you.  Because, after all I did become veg for the health benefits. :)

So anyway…

Vegan Soyrizo Taquitos

This is one of my all-time favorite vegan meals.  Taquitos are small tubes of tortilla that have been rolled with flavorful, (usually Mexican-inspired) filling.  Usually it’s beef, but sometimes chicken or chorizo.  Once the rolling is done, the whole thing is tossed into a deep fryer and made extra delicious because everything is better when fried.

Of course, if this weren’t unResolution month I would say roll them, stick them with a toothpick and bake them with a light coating of olive oil.  But this is unResolution month and you must fry!!!

Oh, and if you are wondering what Soyrizo is…it’s a soy based chorizo meat alternative.  I actually like it better than a lot of real chorizo that I have had because it is not nearly as oily.  Still, it’s kind of grainy, so it works best hidden a dish.

Making the Soyrizo Taquitos

Taquito construction is very simple and this recipe is no different.

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October 6, 2008

Recipe: How to Make Tofu That Doesn’t Suck Part 4

Author: CommonDialogOctober 6, 2008

Back on track being relative… *sigh*

Anyway, this is part four of my groundbreaking series on desuckifying tofu.  As a fan of tofu, I firmly admit that it takes some finessing (or some deep frying) to bring out what makes it truly good.  Which is why in Part 0 of How to Make Tofu That Doesn’t Suck, we looked at all the things you can do to prep your tofu before cooking.  Part 1 covered baking it, Part 2 deep frying it.  Part 3 examined how to stir fry tofu.  Now, we’ll look at it sauces that go well with tofu and then finish up with my recipe for ma po tofu made with nice, firm tofu.

Tofu is an interesting ingredient.  When I first started cooking it, I thought that because it was made from soy beans, it would taste good with soy sauce.  FAIL.  Tofu needs much more flavor than just soy sauce.  This lead me to thinking about other sauces for it.

My favorite dipping sauce for tofu (or really anything is):

  • 1 part sriracha or hot chili oil
  • 2 parts soy sauce
  • 1 part Oriental yellow mustard

It’s salty, it spicy, and it’s just a bit o’ sweet.  Deep fry the tofu and dip.

For baked tofu, I strongly recommend mixing:

After you have baked the tofu for an hour, mix the tofu in the sauce and baked until the sauce is warm.

For stir frying:

  • 1 tablespoon of tahini
  • 1 tablespoon of sugar
  • 2 tablespoons of low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon of rice wine vinegar
  • 4 broth, chicken or vegetable

Mix in a bowl and add after the tofu and vegetables are cooked.  Bring to a boil and add a mixture of one tablespoon of corn starch/one tablespoon of water to thicken.

Other ideas:

  • 1 part ketchup and 1 part of soy sauce
  • Sichuan bean paste, broth, soy sauce, red chili flake
  • Minced garlic, olive oil, tomato paste

Those are my ideas.  What are yours?

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October 3, 2008

Recipe: How to Make Tofu That Doesn’t Suck Part 3

Author: CommonDialogOctober 3, 2008

Phew!  It’s been a bit of a ride, but I am finally back on track.

In Part 0 of How to Make Tofu That Doesn’t Suck, we looked at all the things you can do to prep your tofu before cooking.  Part 1 covered baking it, Part 2 deep frying it.  Today we’re going to be looking at how to stir fry tofu.  Next, we’ll look at it sauces that go well with tofu and then finish up with my recipe for ma po tofu made with nice, firm tofu.

Also, very shortly, I’ll have all of this information packed up into one, nice, easy-to-digest PDF for you to download.  But more on that as we go.

For now…stir frying your tofu.

As a cooking technique, stir frying offers you a number of distinct advantages, most notably that if you are short on time, you can stir fry your tofu without pressing it.  The results will always be better if you can press your tofu first, but in a pinch, this is the way to go.

Cutting Your Tofu For Stir Frying

The trick to perfect stir fried tofu is all in how you cut it.  Stir frying is the ultimate application of a lot of heat, a little fat, and a whole lot of stuff moving around.  This means you are going to have to cut you tofu into small blocks.

If you have no time for prep, when I mean small, I am talking about one-eighth inch thick slices.  Take the entire block of tofu, cut it in half lengthwise, and then make cuts every eighth of an inch.

If you have time for prepping the tofu, I would still not cut it any thicker than one-quarter of an inch.

The Stir Fry

A lot of stir fry recipes have you cook the meat first, then remove it, then cook some veggies, and remove them and so on.  When you are stir frying tofu, what I recommend doing is getting the oil nice and hot and then throwing the tofu into the wok.  Let it stir fry by itself for 3-4 minutes or until it is starting to go from golden brown to just brown brown.

Then remove it if you must.  Better yet, start adding in the other ingredients and let the tofu continue to cook.  The longer that tofu cooks without burning, the better it is going to taste in the end.

Stir Frying as Secondary Cooking

If you have the inclination, what a lot of restaurants like to do is deep fry their tofu first.  What I would recommend doing is cutting the tofu into one inch by two inch by one-half inch pieces, coating them in cornstarch and deep frying then until golden brown.  Once they have drained, they can be added towards the end of the stir fry process (give them at least 2 minutes to cook) and make sure they get coated in whatever sauce you make as they should soak up of that liquid and taste that much better.

Okay, what are you waiting for?  Next time we are talking tofu sauces.

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September 26, 2008

Recipe: How to Make Tofu That Doesn’t Suck Part 1

Author: CommonDialogSeptember 26, 2008

If you haven’t read it yet, Part 0 of the series on how to make tofu that doesn’t suck covers some important lessons in preventing sucky tofu.  Espeically the part on pressing.

If you have read Part 0, fantastic!  Let’s move on to the next step: baking it.  In Part 2, we will cover frying it, which is the easy way out.  Part 3 will dicuss stir frying your tofu, Part 4 will look at a few sauces for your tofu and Part 5 will be my favorite recipe for ma po tofu using extra firm tofu instead of silken.  But for now…baking your tofu for fun and pleasure.

This idea came to me while eating at Whole Foods with my wife.  She had filled up a to go container from the salad bar and added some “tofu croutons” to her salad.  These croutons were about an inch and a half long, half an inch wide, and half an inch tall and had obviously been baked for quite a while.

At this point in my veg*n cooking, I was pretty ho hum about tofu.  I knew I needed to eat more of it, but every time I had tried to make it, it sucked.  Thus, it was hunger alone that persuaded me to try one of the croutons.  Honestly, I was expecting mush.  Instead, I got somthing that was firm on the outside, moist and chewy on the inside, and had a mouth feel that in no way resembled soft tofu.  Score!

So, in order to make tofu that doesn’t suck

  1. Either before after the tofu has been pressed cut the tofu into 1 1/2 in by 1/2 in by 1/2 strips.   While the amount of water pressed out of the tofu is probably different if you cut first, I honestly can’t tell the difference.
  2. Cook the tofu low and slow.  In my oven, this means baking it at 250 degrees for an hour.  This produces a firm, crisp exterior and a succulently juicy interior.

I know it takes a long time and if you are in a rush, tune in tomorrow for how to deep fry the tofu which is much faster, it is just not as healthy.

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